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Grapes of worry

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JANUARY 26, 2023

Content warning: discussions of self-harm and depression

Every New Year’s celebration, my family gathers around, with each person holding a cup of 12 grapes. Each grape represents a wish we can make for the new year if we are able to wish and eat all the grapes within one minute after midnight strikes. Although it is one of my favorite traditions, it is nerve-wracking to have 12 entire wishes, especially since all these wishes forced me to accept the fact that it was a new year. 

The feeling of a new year has always been surreal and frightening. The best way I can describe it is as if I am going to take a spontaneous exam on some subject I don’t know in another country across the world, while everyone else taking the exam has been preparing for this exam their entire lives. Sure, my life would not be over if I failed this exam, but the sudden uncertainty of everything secured my fright into place. 

I’d have to tell myself that New Year’s Day is just like any other day, just that it is the first in yet another calendar year. No matter how many times I remind myself of how ordinary the first of January is, I could not avoid the fact that it was special. It was special, not in an “It’s a holiday!” way, but in a confusingly eerie way. I was always terrified of new things, or change — and New Year’s Day was a day with the word “new” in the name. Having 12 wishes to change your life in this new year brought me into melancholy because having wishes for a year I could not predict terrified me. Despite the celebration surrounding me, I could not imagine a good year in the future, largely because my past 12 wishes were not accomplished completely. 

Growing up, I struggled with undiagnosed depression, leading me to treat any positive emotion going through me with fear and uncertainty for the future. As a result, any concern I had for the future I categorized as negative because uncertainty must be a bad thing; or, that was what I told myself in these situations. I have always been worried about the future and New Year’s always emphasized the future, with or without grapes to wish upon. 

My qualms with New Year’s were not common among my family and friends, as they were all excited to start the year with a different mindset, use this change of date as a way to grow themselves or reshape their lives into better versions. Making a resolution in school or with family, although simple, was an awkward experience often because I never knew what to say. I could not make myself predict something happy for the future. My pessimistic view of the world was often criticized by those trying to help me, but my pessimistic view of optimism prevented me from seeing any good within a new future. 

After years of pessimistic worries on this special holiday, I was finally able to view my New Year’s in a realistic light. I am not optimistic about the new year because there is no way to avoid hardship, especially in light of the current state of the world, but I am not pessimistic about this year. I do not expect bad things to happen, as I am not expecting anything specific to happen in general. When expressing this mindset to others, they are concerned about my lack of optimism, but I believe that it symbolizes how much I grew past my negative tendencies.

On New Year’s Eve, I realized that I have been recovering from these pessimistic views as I was able to stay self-harm free for the entirety of the year 2022. This year my worries were replaced by pride. Instead of focusing on what possible misfortune I would expect the next year, I focused on what I accomplished this last year. I was making more progress than what I ever expected, than what I would wish for in my grape wishing. Focusing so much on my future was a consequence of my past, but after a good year, I realized reflection is an essential part of this holiday. I have achieved a progressive state for my mental health recovery. Although the accomplishments of my family members were completely different, this was my accomplishment and I ought to be proud of it, despite any concern for what the future might behold.

When midnight struck this year, I was straddled in the pessimism of past years and the optimism of others who looked forward to the new year. I want a neutral year. A year that does not focus on the possibility of broken wishes from 12 grapes, nor set my expectations too high for disappointment. This year was the first year I have not wished on the grapes that my hope used to depend on. 

Contact Daniela Ayala at [email protected].

JANUARY 26, 2023